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Austin Cline

Karl Marx & Religion

By March 13, 2006

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Were you searching for more information about Karl Marx, Marxism, or Marxist critiques of religion? One person who attempted to examine religion from an objective, scientific perspective was Karl Marx. Marx's analysis and critique of religion is perhaps one of the most famous and most quoted by theist and atheist alike. Unfortunately, most of those doing the quoting don't really understand exactly what Marx meant.

According to Marx, religion is an expression of material realities and economic injustice. Thus, problems in religion are ultimately problems in society. Religion is not the disease, but merely a symptom. It is used by oppressors to make people feel better about the distress they experience due to being poor and exploited. This is the origin of his comment that religion is the “opium of the masses” - but as shall see, his thoughts are much more complex than commonly portrayed.

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Comments
September 27, 2009 at 6:11 am
(1) Jamie Dyson says:

Currently studying sociology…

Learning all about Karl Marx and Functionalist and Neo-Functionalist Perspectives….

Need to fully get my head round this….

November 13, 2009 at 6:24 am
(2) Amira says:

I am currently studying sociology as well and I am also trying to get my head around the four classical social theories functionalism, Marxism, conflict sociology and social interactionism

October 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm
(3) Quinn says:

i was under the impression that Marxism & conflict sociology were closely intertwined…

December 13, 2009 at 7:10 pm
(4) zay says:

you suck your going to hell because you dont beleive in god you dummy!!!!

May 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm
(5) Truman says:

God is dead. You don’t need god to realize you need to do something good. If someone don’t believe in god it is good as they don’t believe in hell.

October 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm
(6) ari says:

if he doesnt believe in god, he doesnt believe in hell. if you don’t believe in hell, it doesnt exist. so how can he go to hell?

February 16, 2010 at 7:08 pm
(7) Cos says:

God gave you a life . Think about that .

May 13, 2010 at 11:35 am
(8) pascal says:

To cos and Zay: If you would have read the text carefully, you would notice that he says “according to Marx”… He’s not involving himself. Still, it’s funny to see how you really believe what they want you to.

July 11, 2010 at 6:16 pm
(9) Luck is stupidstitious says:

Funny how people claim to know what other people think? Is that some sort of demonic reward from the satanic nonexistant atheistic god?

November 1, 2010 at 10:08 pm
(10) emily says:

“satanic nonexistant atheistic god?”
that is incredibly contradictory

July 12, 2010 at 1:45 am
(11) fgjkghdkgh says:

I like you Pascal

September 7, 2010 at 7:27 am
(12) Jaysus says:

Zay – learn to use English or you’re going to McDonalds.
Cos – if that’s the case, God also kills babies – think about that.

October 7, 2010 at 1:29 pm
(13) Quinn says:

I laughed, that was so clever. infanticide away ;P

November 5, 2010 at 9:15 pm
(14) Flor says:

@Quinn: You are correct.

Marxism is a form of the conflict theory in sociology.

December 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm
(15) socks says:

People have the right to beleive in what ever they want.No matter what all of you say.Just as Marx had was a oppion.

December 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm
(16) Mike says:

This is a post about Marx’s thought, not it Creationism is correct or if God exists. But to add fire to the discussion, to all theists, how does God know he’s all knowing? Think about that

January 3, 2011 at 9:27 am
(17) xyz says:

To you Mike,
God is not about proof, God is about Faith.

February 21, 2011 at 7:29 am
(18) truth says:

here here!
Although, with a bit of research, there is also proof.

January 9, 2011 at 4:12 am
(19) fred says:

1. The only proof for God is the Bible.

2. The Bible tells us that God is perfect.

3. The Bible tells us that “in the beginning there was the word and the word was God”.

4. That makes the Bible the word of the Word.

5. The Bible was written by people inspired by the Holy Spirit for God.

6. As God is perfect, so too will his transmission of his true word be perfect, and if it falls short, he will correct it, for as a perfect being and benevolent, he will not allow errors to misrepresent himself to us.

7. So why are there so many errors in the Bible ?

8. the answer is simple, there is no god.

January 27, 2011 at 8:13 am
(20) Olu says:

Which error have you seen in the Bible? go ahead and name a list of all erros or in a case of just one state it.

February 11, 2011 at 10:48 am
(21) Samagri Nepal says:

The whole Bible is full of errors, fallacies and follies. Let us take example of how woman was created. Can we accept this account?

Let take biblical account of how the universe and living being were created.

We can list many of them.

May 5, 2011 at 8:18 pm
(22) Truman says:

Bible is very political… Genesis was the last one to be written on it.

January 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm
(23) jeff says:

number 6 is your interpretation. Do you have sound proof?

February 21, 2011 at 7:25 am
(24) Anne says:

Can we please fulfil the purpose of this page and just read what Marx has thought about religion?
Nobody really has done a satisfactory job at defining religion, so either way, somebody is going to be unhappy.
And maybe, since nobody can please everyone, someone must be wrong….
And maybe there is a God, maybe the “coincidences” of history and the bible are not, in fact, coincidences?
But seriously, just thank Austin Cline’s succinct and informative overview of Marx’s theories of religion, and form your opinion (By all means!) but don’t get so offended by other people’s clashing opinions…
And yeah, a simple spell check now and then wouldn’t hurt in the feedback….

September 25, 2011 at 4:20 am
(25) VIRGINKILLER says:

Please enlighten me on these errors in the word. For the fool sayeth there is no God fool. Are you using your unbelief as an excuse for immorality? America was founded on the gosple of Jesus Christ, I reccommend you pack up and move overseas, they will take you.

February 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm
(26) airaz says:

i just want to say that if there is god ,one and only god is there. Can you list how many total religions are there in the whole world? That means so many gods are there. One god for each religion. But the answer is no, there is only one god have faith in only one god , thats it.

March 9, 2011 at 11:17 am
(27) S M MAKARFI says:

Be religioslly before read any of the theories on religion issues otherwise you will find yourselve somewhere.

April 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm
(28) lol says:

LMAO!!!!! how did a post having to do with sociology and karl marx’s opinion get into this hole preaching thing on god??????????? i am a christian but some people really need to re-read what they type and see how crazy they sound…anyways I am doing a sociology paper for my college class and this information was really helpful!! thanks!

May 12, 2011 at 5:52 am
(29) gbenga says:

indeed marx was a great man & display a high level of intellectuaal in all his field of endeavour,lived in poverty even amist of great wealth, he stood for what he believed in even to the death, alway looking ahead to a society where every one ll get what his labour worth, not capitalist. his ideology is not conflict rather a justice ideology which is a thorn in the flesh of many capitalist. continue to rest marx as your work still speak greatly of you……..

September 18, 2011 at 10:11 am
(30) LittleA says:

Removing God from the mind of man would leave man open to brainwashing and indoctrination – man made indoctrination. And who is to say which man is right. Didn’t the total failure of Communist Russia prove this point.

September 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm
(31) kaitou kid says:

I don’t want to bother with GOD I wont understand him anyway no man can….so it’s best to let him be

December 6, 2011 at 6:21 am
(32) ???????? says:

Apart from the bible, and without faith, where is the proof that god exists? If i killed every living organism on the planet over a period of say ten years, would god strike me down before or after the planet became extinct. I don’t say i believe in god and i don’t say i don’t, but all i see is people dieing in the name of religion.

December 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm
(33) Marvin says:

(25) VIRGINKILLER says:
“Please enlighten me on these errors in the word. . .”

This might be a good place to start:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html#fowl

I have to ask what in the world your pseudonym is all about. I can’t think of any way in which it conveys an idea anyone could consider remotely moral.

February 4, 2012 at 8:45 am
(34) arch says:

might be wrong, but reading marx tells me he never was an atheist, he just had a bad opinion of how jesus was being made a consumer product for the masses. was part of proving his point that the economic superstructure dictates the culture.

to add fire to the ppl, whats with the aggressive shoving of religion up people’s asses? i personally found this aggressiveness the main reason why atheists are made. most atheists i know are angry about how the churches work more than anger at the religion

March 8, 2012 at 9:54 pm
(35) Charles says:

“if he doesnt believe in god, he doesnt believe in hell. if you don’t believe in hell, it doesnt exist. so how can he go to hell?”

What a patently ridiculous and laughable claim. So if someone doesn’t believe in evolution, it doesn’t exist?

April 5, 2012 at 6:25 am
(36) Shehu moh'd boyi says:

Religion”2 durkheim”is a unifying system of belief n practices regarding d sacred n profine if marx wl denied God”he could ve’bein alife by now?religion is dr n til wl exist 4 now til end of d world?

May 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm
(37) Bacs says:

I think what. Karl Marx was actually saying is not to say there is no God of course he believed in God which he usuallyn refers to as nature!butthe problem he had was the issue of religion ,that the rulling class uses religion to deceive the poor and exploit them.for God sake what Karl marx said is exactly what is happening today in most society especially in Africa and Nigeria to be precise.

May 4, 2012 at 10:05 pm
(38) Austin Cline says:

of course he believed in God

Citations, please?

June 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm
(39) rommney says:

Obama did it

July 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm
(40) Lia Yap says:

Marx is a materialist. And I support socialism. I am currently taking sociology and I believe that religion is what people needed for social integration. Marx may be right but as a person with emotions, we must consider what we really need, a religion.

October 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm
(41) Reuben says:

Hmm,
Marxism IS a form of conflict theories.
No if, and, or but’s.
I have also seen people commenting about Durkheim?
Lets clear this up,
Durkhiem – Consensus.
Marx – Conflict.
They are not the same.
Marx was a communist.
Charles (35) maybe if your such a know it all, do some research into symbolic interactionism.
‘Truth is only what an individual makes of it.’
If an individual believes in god, then god being real is a form of truth, to that individual. the same goes for pretty much everything.
and (34) Arch, what your saying is almost as deterministic as Marx himself. the religious being the consumers? hmm… if your referring to religion being the opium of the masses, I would disagree, its more of a drug being fed to ‘the masses’. but thats just my opinion.

April 28, 2013 at 11:42 am
(42) Joe says:

Most people on here are idiots. Instead of using this as a source of knowledge and understanding of another set of ideals, you use it to try to say that there IS a God, or there ISN’T a God, as if you actually knew for sure.
You cannot know without a doubt that there is or is not a God. Religion is based on faith. Atheist who go around presuming they know more than theists or vice versa are STUPID.
I am agnostic, and I will never presume to know if God exists or not. We’ll all find out when we die. Until then, shut up.

April 28, 2013 at 6:30 pm
(43) Austin Cline says:

blockquote>
Most people on here are idiots.

Unlike you, you mean?

Instead of using this as a source of knowledge and understanding of another set of ideals, you use it to try to say that there IS a God, or there ISN’T a God, as if you actually knew for sure.

You cannot know without a doubt that there is or is not a God.

Do you know that for sure, without a doubt? Then prove it.

Religion is based on faith. Atheist who go around presuming they know more than theists or vice versa are STUPID.

Unlike you, you mean?

I am agnostic

So am I.

and I will never presume to know if God exists or not.

But you presume to know that you’re better than atheists and theists.

We’ll all find out when we die. Until then, shut up.

Thus leaving you more room to denounce others as inferior to your own exalted self?

May 11, 2013 at 6:33 am
(44) Grandpa In The East says:

“We’ll all find out when we die. Until then, shut up.”

Only a person of “faith” could make such a statement. Joe is untruthful.

Grandpa

October 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm
(45) Nduka Agbo. says:

4 me it is beta to believe something satisfactory, than to believe nothing. i believe in God. wot about you?

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